The Greatest Mule Deer Hunter-Part 4

mule deer hunting with dad I feel very fortunate to grow up in a family where hunting was so central in everything that we did. We spent a lot of time outdoors, be it camping, hiking, fishing, and of course hunting. From the time I can remember, I would tag along with my dad when he went mule deer and antelope hunting. I was in kindergarten the first time I was able to go with him and I can still remember how excited I was to be part of something so awesome. My big brother, Mike, got me my own hunter's orange jacket and off we went.


Mule Deer Hunting

One thing that separates my dad, Rick Anderson, from a lot of hunters is the sheer number of new people he has taken under his wing and taught the skills to be a successful hunter and outdoors person. There is nothing that makes him happier than introducing someone to what we do and how we do it. A lifetime of first time hunters can attest that they are who they are as a hunter because of his tutelage. In our family, there was always room for one more when we went hunting. One of my friends was always going along with us when they could because more often than not, we got results and a full freezer.

I will be the first to admit that I was a pain in the butt as a kid and always pushed everything to the limit and through it all, my dad would just pull from his seemingly endless supply of patience and keep trucking along. I don't do really well with authority figures as I tend to think that I know more than they do, regardless of how stupid an assertion that is. I can only remember one time where my dad got really mad at me and I definitely more than deserved it. I don't know how he put up with me all of these years but I am eternally thankful that he did.

My first season hunting with my dad when I was 5 years old, I had an old recurve bow with a couple of arrows that I would carry while we were out hunting and most times my dad would end up carrying it back to the truck at the end of the hunt. Not long after that I got my first BB gun, a Daisy, with the BB reservoir along the barrel and the loudest thing you could ever imagine to be packing around in the hills of Montana. My dad rigged up a little sling for it so I could be just like him and I would follow in his footsteps, mile after mile. We didn't have a whole lot of luck when he and I hunted during that time, for obvious reasons, but I am sure he was just excited and happy to have me along with him, to pass on some of his wisdom. He gave me a true appreciation for the outdoors and hunting mule deer in particular.

One time we were hunting for a big mule deer buck and were just starting to cross this big open draw with some heavy rabbitbrush and we jumped these three big bucks that took off running right up the draw from us. The biggest of the bucks was pushing 30 inches wide, the magic number for mule deer hunters. In a split second my dad had his rifle off of his shoulder and at the ready and as they were not more than 50 yards from us, it was a pretty decent chance at a good buck. The rifle was a Remington model 700 in .25-06, that I got from his as a 13th birthday present, and as deadly a gun as any my family has owned. All in one motion the rifle came up, safety went off, and a tiny pause and then…CLICK. The loudest click ever. He didn't have a round in the chamber and by the time he got a shell jacked in, the bucks were out of sight and not to be seen again. That's the way it goes, even the best laid plans. My dad just kinda chuckled at himself, shook his head, and off we went.

The year was 1984 and I was two years old. I was not along for this hunt, as you can imagine. It was really late in the season and my dad still had his buck tag to fill. There was a lot of snow on the ground and it was really cold in Montana and a lot of people didn't have the vehicle to get to some of the really good hunting areas that my family has hunted for forever. My dad had a 1975 Toyota Landcruiser, dark green, that you could pretty much drive anywhere anytime. He had chains on the front and the Toy was light enough that he could drive a lot of places big trucks couldn't get to. My uncle, Joe Anderson's step-son Randy was along with him as they made their way down to a good hunting spot. As they drove around a corner all of a sudden my dad spotted a herd of does with a huge buck in the middle with his mind on one thing only. They were standing right on the edge of some trees, about 300 yards away and all it would have taken was for them to step into the trees and my dad wouldn't have had the opportunity that he did. Instead, the does started trotting out across this big open flat, offering a perfect broadside shot at this buck that you didn't even have to more than glance at to know he was a shooter. The adrenaline took over and buck fever set in and my dad ended up shooting seven times total, hitting the buck three times and putting him down for good with the last shot. They both ran over to him and were blown away by this big mule deer buck. An almost perfectly symmetrical 6×6 with an inline cheater on both sides and huge eyeguards for a mule deer. The rack gross scores nearly 200 inches in the Boone and Crockett scoring system and is a touch over 25 inches wide. A buck of a lifetime for a lot of hunters. My dad and his nephew had to drag the buck about 250 yards to where the road was and somehow they got the big beast loaded into the back of the Landcruiser and went on their way. My dad always says he'd rather be lucky than good and this has certainly served him well over the years. This buck was on our wall from my earliest memories as a skull-cap mount on a shield plaque that didn't do a whole lot to show off the buck to it's fullest. I recently mounted the antlers on a reproduction skull and it is one of the more impressive mounts I have seen.

What makes a good hunter? Patience, willingness to go the extra mile, working hard for what you love. I think that all of these play a strong role in my dad's hunting career. My dad has outstanding game spotting ability, cultivated over a lifetime of hunting. I have seen him spot a deer with the naked eye at over a mile in thick brush, bedded down, that even with binoculars is not easy to see. His eyes are constantly moving and he is more often than not, the first to spot any animals. When I was growing up and learning how to hunt we barely had enough money to get us out into the hills and never had any extra to have anything other than the essentials in terms of gear. For most of my life, we did not even have binoculars, instead using our rifle scopes to check out anything that needed checking out. What optics we did have were never new and never good quality to begin with and in spite of all this, we never failed to fill the freezer.

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Matt Anderson

About the Author:

I grew up hunting in Eastern Montana, primarily mule deer. I have a passion for skull mounts and I love spending time in the outdoors. I am located in Wisconsin.
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